SXSW 2017: LANE 1974 Explores the Dark Side of Hippiedom

The world of hippies and communes is supposed to be peace, love, and happiness. Sometimes, however, there’s an ugly side, and Lane 1974 explores one young girl’s experience.

Based on the memoir The Hypocrisy of Disco by Clane Hayward as well as the life of director S.J. Chiro, the film tells the story of Lane (Sophia Mitri Schloss), a 13-year-old girl living with her mother and siblings in very raw circumstances.

The family starts off living in a commune with others, and life appears to be good for Lane and her friends. When they’re kicked out, they join another mom and her kids for life on the beach. After a near-tragedy, Lane’s family must make their own way, as she suffers yet another loss, this time of her best friend.

Loss is a recurring theme. Lane’s mother Hallelujah (Katherine Moennig) eventually leaves her toddler with another family, and passes Lane’s brother on to their father Claude (Linas Phillips), leaving the young girl alone with her mother and a new man, living in a field with little to do or eat and little prospects for change.

The crux of the film lies in the relationship between mother and daughter. Hallelujah rejects all of society’s structures and mores and yearns to just meditate and connect her consciousness to the universe. That’s all fine but does not serve her daughter well. The single-minded focus of the parent to the exclusion of the child is difficult to watch.

Eventually, Lane breaks off on her own, a bold move for a young girl having to grow up fast. She shows a resiliency and self-awareness that transcends her upbringing.

Schloss dazzles in the role of Lane. Her quietude and intensity are the perfect counterpart to the absurdity of her unraveling life. Likewise Moennig is frighteningly intense as the mother. Director Chiro said she had to soften the character both from the book and even the original screenplay. It’s hard to find sympathy for a parent parenting poorly.

There are moments of humor and positivity in this mostly serious film. The 1970s setting is perfectly constructed, from the clothes to the Sears Wish Book that will induce nostalgia in the right age group. A sweet scene between Lane and Puma (Jasmin Savoy Brown) shows two young girls bonding over makeup, clothes, and music.

Filmed in Northern California and Washington State, Lane 1974 does a fantastic job of capturing a time and place when rules were being broken and new ways of living explored. It does an even better job with its characters, especially the eponymous Lane. She’s strong and wise beyond her years, and the audience can’t help but root for her.

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